Author: Philippa Gregory (2001)
Edition: Paperback 2002
Category: Contemporary Fiction
Historical story is not really my kind of books, but this book has opened my eyes that there are a lot of interesting information from history that I would have enjoyed (after being modified with fiction of course). This book tells about ambitions, competition, plots, conspiracy and daily lives at Tudor Court when Anne Boleyn was taken as King Henry VIII’s second wife.
Henry was known as an attractive man; especially because he was the King thus everyone tried to please him. His wife at that time was Catherine of Aragon from Spain, who was also the wife for his late brother. Catherine couldn’t give any heir to Henry but they had one daughter: Princess Mary.
At many occasions Henry flirted a lot with the Queen’s ladies in waiting. One of them was Mary Boleyn who at the age of 13 was actually married to another man. At 14, by pressure from her family, she was pushed to serve Henry and provide anything as he wished because it was obvious that Henry couldn’t take his eyes off her beauty and innocence. To help the family pursue their ambition of getting higher position on Henry’s rules, Anne Boleyn, Mary’s elder sister, was called from France to help and support her younger and innocent sister. Soon, Anne who was more determined, active and sexually appealing started to attract Henry’s eyes and Mary was ignored, even though she had provided him 2 bastards which one of them was a son.
Anne was portrayed as a very selfish, ambitious and intelligent. She refused to serve Henry unless he married her. As the King, Henry couldn’t marry Anne because Catherine was still existed. They started a plot to get rid of Queen Catherine and as always, the King got what he wanted.
During her time at Tudor Court, Queen Anne had loads of enemies because of her tempers that also contributed to Henry’s disliking of her. Several times she had miscarriages and she wasn’t able to give a heir to the throne. Partly because of her temper and partly just bored, after that Henry went to another lady in waiting, Jane Seymour. The Seymours had always been the competitor of Boleyns. Being accused of adulteries including with her own brother, George, Queen Anne was beheaded.
The “other Boleyn” is actually referring to Mary Boleyn. Because history never really talked about her, I am not sure whether this part is actual or fiction to support Anne’s story. Moving from once favoured to be her own sister’s lady in waiting, it sometimes really hurt Mary that she used to be on Henry’s bed too. Unlike Anne who ended up becoming queen, Mary was just a mistress. She did feel jealous but she usually kept it within herself. The only escape for Mary was spending the time with her children. When her sister Anne and brother George were beheaded, she saw them from her hiding but she managed to save her children and herself, and built a humbler life.
The book is quite thick with rather small prints. I thought that I will have it a go and read, see if I could just skim it. It turned out to be the opposite; I kept turning the pages even until 4am in the morning! I wanted to know what happen next and afterwards, until in the end I realised that it was based on real characters. I did some surveys after that and found the main line was quite similar with what was depicted on the book. The difference is: the book has details and dialogs that helped me to imagine what had (or might had) happened at Tudor at that time. Although this book is a mixed between history and fiction, it has added my knowledge about England’s history from nothing to something. I believe that those additonal (rather) fictitious parts didn’t really change the substance of the real history*. One annoying part of the book is the fact that English people use repetitive names on their subsequent generations and it confused me (in the beginning).
*Added 17/05: But please bear in mind that this book is classified as fiction, thus to understand the ‘real’ history further readings are required.